Broncos Game Grades: Defense returns to dominance

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Throughout the entire 2017-18 season, BSN Denver will be giving you game grades from every Denver Broncos contest. Evaluating all of the starters and beyond to give you a better look at the team’s strengths and weaknesses on a game-to-game basis.

The Denver Broncos got back on track after losing eight in a row to make a statement win over the New York Jets by 23-0. With the first win in a while and in dominant fashion, we finally saw lots of big games out of the Broncos best players.


Shelby Harris: B+

Domata who? With Harris moved inside to play as the nose, he was fantastic, bringing a different element from Domata Peko who’s had a great season in his own right.

Harris seems to always get himself a few plays a game, and that didn’t change against the Jets. He got into the backfield on a missed assignment by the o-line and almost forced the ball out for a fumble, getting the sack instead by dragging Josh McCown down by his leg.

He also made plays against the run, getting after runners in pursuit and creating penetration. To top it all off, he also had himself a pass deflection.

Appearing in 32 of 48 defensive snaps, Harris was a presence, penetrating consistently through the middle, something Denver hasn’t always had this season.

Zach Kerr: B-

Kerr actually played in 38 snaps, more than any other starting down lineman. His performance won’t be noticed much on the stat sheet, but he was a big body up front who played with power and even rushed the passer on third-down.

He did come up with a nice pass deflection on 3rd-and-4 in the fourth quarter. Not a splashy performance but an effective game by the big man.

Adam Gotsis: B-

Surprisingly, Gotsis, the only regular starter on the front-three, appeared in the least amount of snaps at 25. He played well early on with a nice close against the run. His biggest play came on the fumble recovery where he was quick to react.

Gotsis was questionable coming into the game dealing with an illness, so his lack of snaps can be understood. He was a presence against the run early on, and that’s all the Broncos really needed from him.

Von Miller: A+

It’d been a while since Von got to hunt the passer like he did in this game with the early lead and plenty of pass rushing opportunities. He got a great pressure on McCown early on, flushing him out of the pocket. His best work was his sack off of a nasty inside spin move, absolutely bullying the right tackle to slam McCown to the ground. The hit was one of the many blows that eventually put the Jets QB out of commission.

No. 58 was superb against the run as well, turning it on even more in the second half and giving the Jets no chance of establishing an outside run game. He did a great job setting the edge and was fantastic in his ability to penetrate and get by blockers. A stellar game.

Todd Davis: B-

Davis was slowed down by injuries, going down hard at the start of the fourth quarter and being limited to 35 snaps. He did his job stuffing the run and racking up five tackles in the process. He also was tested in coverage on a wheel route and did his job limiting the pass to a short gain, sticking with his man through the route.

Brandon Marshall: A+

Marshall had a stellar game and was all over the place in this one, making plays in all phases. As a pass rusher, he had the play of the game blitzing McCown up the middle and stripping the ball out of his hands for a turnover.

Against the run, he dominated with three tackles for a loss chasing plays down and closing in a hurry. His lateral mobility was off the charts, and his instincts were on point.

In coverage, he did a nice job closing and tackling Jermaine Kearse on a crosser, limiting him to his only catch of the game for measly four yards.

He even closed off the game with his final tackle for a loss taking the Jets yardage total back to an exact 100-yards.

He was the catalyst and leader for the ‘D.’

Shane Ray: B+

Ray’s slowly coming back to show the burst off the line and closing speed that make him so lethal. He played the majority of the game—89 percent of snaps—and was able to create consistent pressure even if he fell short of getting a sack.

His first quarterback hit put McCown out of the game on second down with a couple minutes left in the third quarter. He then unleashed a spin move turning the left tackle around and getting the veteran quarterback on his back again with a perfect form tackle.

The speed and playmaking were much improved.

Darian Stewart: A

Stewart wasn’t tested too much in this one as the deep safety, but when he was, he pounced. No. 26’s big play of the game, of course, was his interception, showing great instincts and ball skills. He closed in a hurry and came down to pounce on the ball.

Later on, he was right there as Robby Anderson bobbled a pass, making a great play as the veteran safety almost had his second pick.

Justin Simmons: N/A

Simmons was put out of the game early with an ankle injury. Will Parks was tasked to replace him for most of the game and had a solid outing in 85-percent of the defensive snaps. He did a fine job getting a stop on 3rd-and-2 at beginning of second quarter flying to the ball all the way out to the sideline. He had two consecutive pass deflections as well, though he was flagged for the second one for making early contact with the receiver. He also played great coverage on 3rd-and-3 breaking to make a play on the ball.

He played a gritty game with five tackles, moving around in all different formations and doing a superb job in coverage. He deserves an A- with the penalty being his only low light.

Chris Harris Jr.: A+

Harris was feeling it, playing with a lead and making standout plays when the ball came his way. He laid the smackdown on Anderson, knocking him to the ground after a stretched out one-handed grab by the WR for a short gain.

He also had an outstanding pass deflection while playing blanket coverage on Kearse, running the receiver down and making a play on the ball at the perfect time, swatting it out of reach.

Aqib Talib: A

Back from suspension, Talib was up to the standard of the rest of the secondary in a historic outing limiting the Jets to 41 yards in the air.

He allowed a short completion to Anderson on a first down conversion by the Jets at the beginning of the second quarter but was lights out in coverage after that.

He was right there step-for-step with the wide receiver on Stewart's interception, making the play happen by forcing Anderson inside at the line of scrimmage.

Against the run, he combined with Jamal Carter to tackle McCown on a third-down scramble which is what initially injured the Jets QB.

Other noteworthy defensive performances: 

Bradley Roby made a great play on the ball coming up with a pass deflection while covering in the slot. Jumping on the pass and making a great play.

DeMarcus Walker got pressure on Bryce Petty, hitting him in the process as the QB got a four-yard completion. He also had a nice third-down tackle against the run on 3rd-and-6, by far his best outing as a Bronco.

Shaquil Barrett got a crucial pressure on 3rd-and-10 forcing the ball out quickly for an incompletion.


Garett Bolles: C

Bolles, like the rest of the offensive line, didn’t play the cleanest game. He was beaten on the opening touchdown pass forcing Siemian to throw it off his back-foot under serious duress. He was also baited into a false start.

The rookie allowed another pressure on 3rd-and-3, pushing Siemian out to his left to make a superb completion. Bolles had breakdowns in protections but was also able to anchor guys late and prevent clear paths to No. 13 for the most part.

In the ground game, he did a great job on 3rd-and-goal on Andy Janovich’s touchdown. Bolles had the task of going against Leonard Williams on that particular play and out-leveraged him to get the push for Janovich to run behind. It didn’t look pretty, but for the most part, Bolles got the job done.

Max Garcia: C

The left guard’s push on the goal line is what made Janovich’s touchdown possible as he bullied his way through the Jets stout d-line. He also had a great block on C.J. Anderson’s best run of the game.

Garcia was far from perfect, however, allowing penetration on first down on the goal line that was almost catastrophic, almost leading to a Siemian sack. Garcia also couldn’t stop Williams while getting out in space on a pull, allowing a tackle for loss. An up and down performance.

Matt Paradis: C

Paradis was completely tossed to the ground by nose tackle Steve McLendon, who got into Siemian's face forcing an incompletion on the first play of the second offensive drive.

While efficient in pass protection, the power on a play-to-play basis was lacking in the run game where Denver was fairly ineffective.

Connor McGovern: D+

The right side of the line could not get the consistent push for the ground game, and McGovern was a big part of that. Down on the goal line on second down, he allowed a tackle for a loss. McGovern’s outing wasn’t impressive, even in pass protection where he also allowed a few too many interior penetrations.

Donald Stephenson: C

Stephenson, with McGovern, struggled to get much if any, regular push in the run game. It’s worth noting that he competed in pass protection and was fairly efficient staying in front of his man, showing good foot mobility.

He did allow a pressure, forcing Siemian out of the pocket for an eventual sack, and Stephenson also missed an added blitzer to his side for another crucial pressure. The right tackle was steady, aside from a few mishaps.

C.J. Anderson: C+

C.J. ran hard and with physicality, but he wasn’t elusive or explosive. However, he was reliable on third downs, especially as a receiver out the backfield, always fighting for extra yards.

He also had a great run on 3rd-and-1 bouncing it to the outside and lowering his shoulder through contact to gain the extra yardage for the conversion. He's a steady veteran presence, even if he's lacking some in the playmaking department and didn't get much help from his line.

Demaryius Thomas: A+

DT put on a show, making enough big plays to gain the early lead and the Broncos never looked back after that. He had to battle all game with sticky coverage even taking a hit in the end zone and playing through it.

He caught the ball in tough spots and got runs after the catch. His touchdown reception was magnificent, gaining position and making the tough grab coming back to the ball with a defender draped over him. He added a beautiful reception on 4th-and-1, hauling the pass in and making a fine toe drag to the sideline.

Slowly but surely, he also created some space for himself getting open on a skinny post and later a crosser for a few more big gains. On a historic day for him, he was the unquestioned star of the Broncos offense.

Emmanuel Sanders: C

Sanders had a quiet day as he’s still not 100-percent. He did make a nice sideline grab on 3rd-and-3, his only reception of the game. On an early deep target, he couldn’t create enough separation on an eventual incidental contact with the DB.

With only four targets his opportunities were pretty limited.

Virgil Green: B-

Green appeared in 64 percent of the offense's snaps but had zero targets as a receiver. His impact was mostly as a blocker, and in pass protection, he was impactful as an added blocker battling and slowing down the rush. Blocking for the ground game was much more of a struggle, though the entire offense had issues in that area.

Trevor Siemian: B-

Siemian didn’t play a great game, nor was he anything close to perfect. However, in the big moments early on, he came up with big-time throws which ultimately won Denver the game. More importantly, he avoided turnovers despite being under duress constantly and having little help from his running game.

Siemian got going with a nice back shoulder throw deep to Latimer on 3rd-and-6 on the opening drive, but the throw of the game was his touchdown pass to Thomas which was a fadeaway 20-yard pass completely off balance with pressure right in his face.

He showed amazing heart to stretch out and get a 3rd-and-8 conversion with his feet on a scramble, then threw a dime on the run, scrambling to his left on 3rd-and-3 to hit Sanders. He also made a quick throw to Thomas on 4th-and-1 with nice ball placement.

Those third-down conversions are what Denver needed. So, while he was unspectacular on a play to play basis, he came through while taking a beating.

Other noteworthy offensive performances:  

Devontae Booker contributed a tough run with 9:30 left in the third quarter, spinning his way to a five-yard run on 2nd-and-5 to get the first down.

Jeff Heuerman dropped what could’ve been a touchdown, simply bobbling the ball as he tried to turn and run.

Special Teams: B

This was the rare game in which the special teams unit didn’t have any big plays, positive or negative. Though the overall impact of the special teams was felt with the Broncos playing with consistent good field position.

The punt return unit, which has struggled this year, played particularly well as Jordan Taylor had a great game and the grouping came close to blocking a couple punts.

The only negative note was Brandon McManus' missed 29-yard field goal.

Coaching: A-

Vance Joseph finally got a complete and clean game from his guys. While Joe Woods’ defense was out of this world, holding the Jets to 100 total yards and only 41 in the air.

Bill Musgrave’s offense struggled to get yardage on first and second down, probably putting too much responsibility in Siemian’s hands. Denver only had one first down the entire fourth quarter, which would’ve been a problem against a better offensive opponent.

With a clean game from all units, winning the turnover and penalty battles, the coaches deserve praise for this one as well.

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